Since the presidential elections on 9 August 2020, internationally reported as not adhering to fundamental democratic standards, Belarusian people have taken to the streets for peaceful demonstrations. They are calling for a rerun of the elections, release of protesters and political prisoners detained by Lukashenko’s regime and the end of state violence against the peaceful protest movement.
Since the start of the academic year on 1 September 2020, the state authorities have been exerting pressure on higher education institutions to curtail freedom of expression at universities. To date, several lecturers demanding respect for fundamental freedoms were fired, and peaceful protests of students were supressed. On a number of occasions groups of masked persons, typically wearing no national insignia or uniforms, were reported to be intimidating, beating and detaining students at or nearby university premises.
Despite politically-motivated action taken against academics and students, some rectors, who are appointed by the president, as well as a fraction of senior management of academic institutions, have been supporting Lukashenko’s regime. For example, on the 15th of September 2020, the Belarusian National Technical University (BNTU) approved new regulations prohibiting public expression of the staff and students’ civic position diverging from the state policies. On the 24th of September 2020 the rector of the Minsk State Linguistic University (MSLU) banned unauthorised protests on campus. Senior managers who pursue different policies or fail to supress protests on campuses are replaced, as it happened recently in cases of three out of four rectors of medical universities.
We call those responsible in senior management of Belarusian universities to stop the intimidation and repression on campuses, and to ensure the freedom of expression. We call on the Belarusian authorities to end the state violence against any members of universities and other academic institutions. We call for an immediate release of all those arrested arbitrarily and without legal basis. We declare our solidarity with all students, academics and researchers whose freedoms and wellbeing are endangered because they seek democratic change in Belarus.